By Daniel Margrain
Theresa May’s announcement that the decision to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty at the end of March at the latest, by-passing parliamentary debate, is a kick in the teeth for all those campaigners who argued that to do so would undermine due legal process in the wake of the passing of the 2015 Referendum Act. As I stated previously, in legal terms, the referendum decision to leave the EU was advisory not mandatory. What happened following the vote was therefore a matter of politics, not law.
However, the governments formal position was that it had no legal obligation to consult parliament on invoking Article 50 which gives Britain a two year period to negotiate the terms of its departure and insisted that every word of its defense had to be kept secret. But on September 23, crowdfunded group People’s Challenge lodged a court application to allow it to publish the governments argument. Six days later, the court ruled that the government must disclose the legal arguments on the procedure of Article 50.
The governments announcement to definitively invoke Article 50 while ignoring the rest of the process that Parliament set in train when it passed the 2015 Referendum Act, seems to be predicated on its ancient (archaic) use of the Royal Prerogative to trigger the process of the UK leaving the EU in the interest of the Government’s sectional and party political interest.
Indeed, Teaching Fellow in Public Law and Jurisprudence at University College London, Thomas Fairclough concluded, “it will be the Government, using the Royal Prerogative, who will decide if/when to trigger the Article 50 mechanism and take the United Kingdom out of the European Union.” By using the Royal Prerogative to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon this Government will be sweeping away rights at a stroke of a pen without the proper scrutiny of and a final decision being made by our Sovereign Parliament.
In announcing her proposed deadline for the triggering of Article 50 now, PM Theresa May said there will be time for preparatory work from all parties involved, which she hopes would lead to a “smoother process of negotiation”. May said that while she was willing to announce key landmarks in the Brexit timeline, she did not plan to continue sharing details during the negotiation process.“There’s a difference between not giving any commentary and giving a running commentary,” she said.
The lack of government transparency is bound to have implications in terms of whether foreign companies decide to invest in the UK. It’s incumbent on the government to be as open and transparent as possible in order to create the necessary conditions to allow companies to make an informed choice as to whether or not to invest in the UK.
According to the Telegraph, bosses of several of America’s banks and corporations have warned May that they will shift operations into Europe unless she can provide early clarity on the future shape of UK-EU relations. If the banks go, there will be virtually nothing left that the UK specializes in other than selling WMDs to whoever is prepared to meet the governments asking price, or making cars to sell to the Germans, Indians and Japanese.
The bad news was delivered to May in New York in a meeting with US investors, presumably intended to calm their nerves. According to an account by the Telegraph, May declined to provide information about how the UK government would approach the Brexit negotiations never mind when they would start. Neither May nor the government appear to have any idea about where the country is going or how long it will take to get their.
Try putting yourself, dear reader, into the shoes of the investors. If you had the best financial interests of your company and shareholders at heart, would you invest in a country that appeared to have no idea where it is going?
Estimates for job losses resulting from a “hard Brexit” range from 40,000 to 80,000 over the next decade. Furthermore, Chancellor, Philip Hammond has said that the retention of passport rights of bankers is highly unlikely given the constant calls from mainly Tory constituents demanding that immigration be curbed at any cost. As financial services are said to generate more than £66bn in tax in the UK, the consequences for society are potentially serious.
Meanwhile, EU leaders continue to harden their stance against the UK saying they will rule out any cherry-picking in relation to accessing the single-market. The negative consequences resulting from the UKs uncertainty surrounding Brexit is already happening. Job vacancies in the UKs financial sector have suffered a sharp decline since Brexit.
According to the Institute of Public Policy Research, for example, job openings in the financial sector have plunged 10 per cent across England, falling in every region during July and August. They attributed the decline to concerns whether the UK will retain its passport rights. London recorded a 13 per cent drop in job adverts.
Investment in infrastructure has also received a set back according to Standard and Poor, the ratings agency. In a note to clients, the agency said that private investment in infrastructural projects was under threat: “The biggest risks for infrastructural companies could be from an extended period potentially running for many years during which the terms of exit and replacement trade treaties with the UKs partners are renegotiated”, they said.
In other words, nobody wants to spend any money in a country where they don’t know where it’s going or how long it takes to get there. On the other hand, infrastructural assets might become cheaper as the pound sterling devalues. So we ought not be surprised if the Tories sell off what little infrastructure we have remaining to the Chinese and Saudi’s for short-term profitable gain.
The incompetence of people like Boris Johnson who led us into this mess and the mainstream media who failed to challenge him, have instead focused their ire on attacking Jeremy Corbyn, who argued in favour of the Remain position. How much longer Theresa May and her Tory government can insulate themselves from media criticism over the Brexit debacle, remains to be seen.